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May 08, 2007 - 05:00 PM

The Litiginator

by Carmen Balber
Arnold's personal love of lawsuits clashed yesterday with his efforts to limit consumers' legal rights when the gov announced his endorsement of legislation that attacked consumer protection laws.

It was especially odd because the endorsement of AB 1505 (Parra) was a departure from his office's usual legislative playbook, which typically refuses to comment on pending legislation until it reaches his desk.

Arnold has threatened litigation -- and often brought suit for huge damages -- against anyone who uses his image, even when that use is protected political satire. (See Arnold's challenge to the maker of my favorite doll, the bobble-headed Governor Girlie Man).

But Arnold's personal appreciation of the value of the courts hasn't put a dent in his rhetoric against 'frivolous' lawsuits. He's taken a stand for his corporate contributors, many of whom have also been held accountable under consumer protection laws in California.

Proponents of the bill claimed it targets frivolous litigation but protects legitimate consumer suits. This same promise was made by the same companies in 2004 when they were backing Proposition 64. But big business revealed that initiative's true target as soon as it was enacted with immediate challenges to legitimate consumer protection cases using Prop. 64.

The cases challenged under Prop. 64 included public interest actions to stop invasion of medical privacy, disabled access barriers, dangerous drugs, unfair cell phone billing, false advertising, elder abuse and public health threats.

AB 1505 plays the same masquerade: big business makes hyperbolic claims about abuse of the legal system to roll back legal rights and decimate consumer protection cases.

The bill was killed in committee this morning, giving us even more reason to wonder why Schwarzenegger, who placed winning above most everything after his devastating 2005 special election defeat, broke with tradition to hitch himself to a falling star.

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